FaithWorld

from Photographers' Blog:

When monkeys tie the knot

It all started with a phone call. I was being invited to a wedding. Sounded good. I'd finally make my debut in wedding photography.

I had it all planned. I wanted to spend a day each at the groom's and the bride’s respectively. Now the only hiccup was I couldn’t interact with them. After all, they were no regular couple. They were monkeys.

Monkeys have an important place in Hindu mythology. They are worshiped as Lord Hanuman, the mighty ape that fought the devious Ravana alongside Lord Rama to create the epic Ramayana.

When I reached Talwas in the Indian state of Rajasthan, I went straight to the house of the 'groom', Raju. I immediately felt the excitement around the marriage. Many relatives of Raju’s caretaker Ramesh had come to attend the wedding. For them, it almost seemed they were attending the marriage ceremony of Ramesh's son.

But very soon I sensed some apprehension in the air. Apparently the forest department officials had already warned Ramesh against the proposed marriage of his monkey. But like a stubborn father fighting for his son, he told me the wedding would happen as scheduled even if he had to go to jail for it.

Nepal Hindu temple conducts biggest animal sacrifice on earth

sacrificeAt least 15,000 buffalo and “countless” goats and birds were sacrificed in a temple in southern Nepal on Wednesday in a ritual billed as the single biggest animal slaughter on earth.

Hindus in Nepal routinely offer animals for sacrifice to appease deities, especially power goddesses, for good luck and prosperity. But the festival held every five years at the Gadhimai temple in southern Nepal was condemned this year by animal rights activists, including French actress Brigitte Bardot, who called for an end to the centuries-old ritual of slaughtering animals.

“We had more than 15,000 buffalo sacrificed Tuesday. But the number of goats and birds, including roosters and pigeons, sacrificed Wednesday is countless,” Shiva Chandra Prasad Kushawaha, chief of the festival’s organizing committee said.

Do animals have moral codes? Well, up to a point…

wild-justice-2“We believe that there isn’t a moral gap between humans and other animals, and that saying things like ‘the behavior patterns that wolves or chimpanzees display are merely building blocks for human morality’ doesn’t really get us anywhere. At some point, differences in degree aren’t meaningful differences at all and each species is capable of ‘the real thing.’ Good biology leads to this conclusion. Morality is an evolved trait and ‘they’ (other animals) have it just like we have it.”

That’s a pretty bold statement. If a book declares that in its introduction, it better have to have some strong arguments to back it up. A convincing argument could influence how we view our own morality and its origins, how we understand animal cognition and even how we relate to animals themselves.

Wild Justice: The Moral Lives of Animals, a new book by Marc Bekoff and Jessica Pierce, presents a persuasive case for some animals being much more intelligent than generally believed. The authors show how these animals have emotions, exhibit empathy, mourn for their dead and seem to have a sense of justice. They draw interesting parallels to similar human behaviour that many people think stems from our moral codes and/or religious beliefs rather than some evolutionary process. All this is fascinating and their argument for open-mindedness about recognising animals’ real capabilities is strong.